(Editor's note: Today is the last day of LGBT History Month, celebrated each October to recognize the notable achievements of LGBT people throughout time. Each day this month, Equality Forum has featured one LGBT icon who has made notable contributions to society and SDGLN has published their stories here in the Causes section. Learn more about today's icon, Rev. Robert Wood, below, and read about all of this year's icons HERE.)
The Rev. Robert Wood authored the first book in the United States on Christianity and homosexuality. He is the first clergyman to picket for gay rights.
Wood, born in 1923, was raised in Youngstown, Ohio. He enlisted in the Army and was severely wounded in the invasion of Italy. He was awarded a Purple Heart, two Battle Stars, a Combat Infantry Badge and a Bronze Star. With the help of the G.I. Bill, Wood graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and the Oberlin School of Theology.
In 1951, he was ordained in Vermont in the Congregational Christian denomination. He served on the board for Homeland Ministries for the United Church of Christ and on the World Ministries Board.
In 1956, he wrote an article titled “Spiritual Exercises” for a gay physique magazine, which featured a photo of him in his clerical collar. After meeting Edward Sagarin, author of the groundbreaking book “The Homosexual in America” (1951), Wood was inspired to write “Christ and the Homosexual” (1960). Wood’s book was the first to call for the Christian faith to welcome homosexuals without repudiating their sexuality.
In 1960, the Mattachine Society and The Prosperos honored Wood with Awards of Merit. Each Fourth of July from 1965 to 1969, Wood picketed in his clerical collar at “Annual Reminders,” which launched the LGBT civil rights movement. He appeared in “Gay Pioneers,” a documentary about the demonstrations. In 2001, the Christian Association at the University of Pennsylvania honored him as a gay pioneer.
Wood retired from the ministry after serving 35 years in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. For 27 years, he lived openly with his partner Hugh Coulter.
“Is it proper for two of the same sex to enter the institution of marriage? To which I must reply, ‘Yes.’ ”